God’s people live for God’s mission. Scripture tells us that the church community as a whole is commissioned by God for mission: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9-10). Notice that all of those descriptions of the church are corporate, not individual.
So how does the church become mission-minded? Enter Rick Rusaw’s and Eric Swanson’s book, The Externally Focused Church. The book is a call for the church to be engaged in acts of service in its community. It gives both a quick theology of service as well as a methodology for becoming an externally-focused church—a church which seeks to serve the surrounding community.
Generally, the book has sound theology. Although the highlight is on doing good works, I did not get the sense that the authors thought good works were more important than the good news of the gospel. Good works and good news go together in Scripture (see: Book of James). This book examines the one side of that equation (good works) more in-depth than the other. And that’s ok; no book can do everything.
The book has tons, I mean, tons of examples of churches doing service projects in the community. All of the examples are great for stimulating your thinking and generating creative ideas of apply in your community context.
The Externally Focused Church is good for helping churches in lower socio-economic areas figure out the needs of its community. With a median income of $127,623, however, Lincroft, New Jersey—where my church is located—is extremely wealthy. How do we as an upper-class church make a difference in our community, when physical needs are not readily apparent?
Furthermore, although the book does have a section on Urban-Suburban church partnerships (pp. 188-189), much more information on that topic would have been useful. For example, how can a rich church like mine partner with another ministry without being paternalistic?
Buy, Borrow, or By-Pass: It’s a helpful book for church leaders to buy and discuss.